Shore by Richard Leise


Staring at the scissors, he’s holding the mirror.  He wants me to cut, he wants me looking a certain way.  Not today.  I make a fist of my hair, I saw right through and cut my scalp.  Good.  Pain.  I shove the scissors into my mattress and howl.  I haven’t heard my voice outside my head in so long, I delight in the madness.  Mirror raised he’s lunging thinking swing, I yank the scissors from the mattress and stab him.  I’m lucky, I nail an eye.  Slug-warm blood splashes my breasts, my face.  I hear this squoosh, in my wrist I feel this flash of pain, the metal jamming his skull.  He kneels.  I yank the scissors from his eyeball, stab his neck.  Again and again.  His raised hands I stab too, I stab and I stab, killing him until he dies.    

There was the problem of my chain, I knew he hadn’t brought the keys downstairs.  I could hack off enough skin to slide off the cuff, but I’d probably die trying.  Not that living was what I for sure wanted.  I was Girl brutalized with a turkey baster, her juices collected for dog food and salad dressings.  I was a milk carton.  I had my bucket of water, his scissors.  Why worry.  

I wasn’t ready to see anybody.  I loved my parents, but love was weird, like something I was supposed to do.  Even though he was dead it was fun thinking him alive, holding on, and that he needed another stab now and then.  I wasn’t bored or anything.  Like how an octopus, in captivity, will eat its own arms?  This wasn’t that.  

You’re probably wondering:  She obviously escapes, so how ….

…. You won’t believe me, so I won’t try –     

One day later on. 

The door’s open, and he’s sitting on the end of the made hotel bed.  The police officer squeezes my shoulder, she walks away.  

He doesn’t speak.  I put a hand on Dad’s back, I give my first hug in two years.  I feel his tears on my shoulder, they are huge.  Hot.  It’s not easy for me to swallow.  I can smell the ocean, I am not reminded of Him.  

My mom was overseas, working.  Now she’s overhead, flying.  So we’ll wait for home.  We’ll go sailing.  

Dad makes for a slip on Ketchum Creek.  The boat’s bigger than I expected.  The creek’s still as a mirror, so are we.  I look forward to open water, lowering the rail some, sitting up on the coaming.  There are beautiful homes on either side, we pass through an inlet.  Like a mirage, a bridge in the distance.  I forget its name.  Then the Atlantic.  

“You okay?”

I nod.  He comes closer and checks my life jacket.  

Smiling, he says, “Be crazy if after all that psycho-killer bullshit you drown in a boating accident.”  

I nod.  

“Nothing now but just sail for a bit.  I’m going to check out the cabin.  Fridge up our lunch.  Make some calls.  Then I thought maybe we could fish.”  

It’s funny.  There are very few sights, or smells, that bring Him to mind.  People will try and figure out why, but who knows.  Still, though, there are words.  Someone says something, or I catch a turn of phrase, and thoughts of Him, like bubbles in bathwater, rise to the surface and pop.  They burst.  

I look over the side of the boat.  The foamy water, a blue or a gray sort of white or green, just like an old black eye.  When he was dead for a day he became very stiff.  His good eye was open.  His other eye seemed to have exploded, eye gunk and eye goo leaking down the side of his face, hardening like the white of a cracked egg on the side of a frying pan, the top of a range.    For some reason he died with his hands raised before Him, curled, and he looked like a tiny T-Rex.  I didn’t smile, but warmth spread throughout my body, and I considered what it meant to smile, and I wanted to smile, but, like vomit, I kept it down.  

His face melted.  The tip of his fat gray tongue hung from the side of his mouth.  I snipped it off with his scissors, and a bit of blood oozed and squirted like when you squeeze a ketchup packet.  And then I planted the scissors back inside his face.  

“Don’t move.” 

I didn’t know he was behind me.  I didn’t move, I saw what caught Dad’s attention.  There was a bird, like a butterfly, flitting above my knee.  The bird descended, it landed on my thigh.  I studied it carefully, I hoped that it would sing.  It was the most beautiful thing.  

It weighs about as much as an empty soda can.  I feel its little feet, that tiny little bird clinging to my thigh as we cut across the bay.  

The bird is pretty.  Like me, the bird is unremarkable.  Its weathered crown, its disheveled feathers, a mishmash of grays and browns, like it had been plucked by spoiled children.  

People wonder how these birds can pack up from a place like Nova Scotia and, a few days later, land on a tree branch in South America.  Some suspect they do something remarkable, like fly across the Atlantic Ocean.  A crazy voyage for such a tiny, unremarkable bird.  A human, I learned, would have to travel more than eleven million miles, without stopping, to do the same sort of thing.        

But I was here, still as a pine tree, and so the bird figured why not.  I don’t think it saw the shore, knew it was almost safe.  Flying, or migrating, wasn’t a competition.  And taking a chance was better than dying.    

I kept hoping it would sing, Sing! I dreamed, but it didn’t.  

The bird, rested, slowly lowering its weight onto my own, leapt like a spring.  And like that it flew away.


Richard writes and teaches outside Ithaca, NY. A Perry Morgan Fellow from Old Dominion University’s MFA program, his fiction and poetry is featured in numerous publications. His debut novel, BEING DEAD, will be available from Brigids Gate Press fall, 2023. His unique literary work, “Johannes & Merritt” (Dark Lake Publishing), is available from Amazon. And his luminous love story, “Jennifer,” will be available from DreamPunk press January, 2023. Follow him on Twitter @coy_harlingen

Published 10/27/22

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